Introduction from Dr Catherine Bond, Acting Deputy Head of School, UNSW Law
Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, and thank you for coming to join us today at this year’s Learn at Lunch, bite size lecture series with UNSW's leading academics. My name is Dr. Catherine Bond. I'm the Acting Deputy Head of School at UNSW Law and I'm delighted you could join us today for this lecture. Before we get started, I would like to take a moment to acknowledge the Gadigal people of the Eora Nation, the traditional custodians of this land. I would like to pay my respects to the elders past, present and emerging. As UNSW celebrates 70th anniversary this year, I'd also like to thank those in attendance from our Scientia circle. Our supporters who enable UNSW to advance knowledge through research and education by giving in their will.
A few housekeeping announcements, please be aware that today's session will be recorded and available for podcasting via the UNSW alumni website. Please also then have your mobile phones switch to silent too. The bathrooms are outside the door just across the hall corridor but please feel free to ask any of the members of staff outside for assistance as well. Before we introduce today's keynote speaker, I'd like to take this opportunity to welcome Libby Lyons to the microphone.
Libby Lyons was appointed director of the Workplace Gender Equality Agency in October 2015. She oversees the statutory reporting process that gathers gender equality data from more than 12,000 employers covering more than four million employees. Soon after starting her appointment at the agency, Libby initiated the development of the strategic plan focused on maximising the agency's world leading data set and expanding the breach and impact of gender reporting nationally and internationally. Please join me in welcoming Libby. Thank you.
Introduction from Libby Lyons, Director of the Workplace Gender Equality Agency
Thank you, Kate and before I begin, I also would like to pay my respects and acknowledge the Gadigal people of the Eora Nation, custodians of the land on which we meet today. And I'd like to acknowledge their leaders past, present and those to come. As we share our own knowledge, learnings and research, may we also pay respect to the knowledge embedded forever within the Aboriginal custodianship of country. Thank you for inviting me here today, and thank you Louis. It's an absolute privilege to be asked to come and introduce this lecture on what a great topic Gender Justice at Work, Power Privilege Change. Why do we need it? The workplace gender equality agency has been going now for five years, and our data set is world leading and it does show us where progress is being made and we are making progress. We really, really are.
But the beauty of the data set is it also shows us where we're lagging behind. And whilst I'm a natural optimist, and I love talking about the positives, I think it's really very important that we address the underlying cultural and structural barriers that are blocking our paths to workplace gender equality here in Australia. A powerful example of this is an industry that Louis and I know only too well, that is the construction industry. There is little positive news in our data set around the construction industry. It has the second highest pay gap in the country at 29.4%. That pay gap has actually increased two percentage points over the last year and it's gone up four percentage points over the five years that we've been collecting data.
It is second only to mining in being the most male dominated industry in Australia with just 17% of employees being female. Women are very, very poorly represented, just 4% of CEOs in the construction industry of women, just 13% of key management personnel or those that generally report into the CEO are women. Overall, only 12% of managers in the construction industry are women. Again, like the pay gap, these numbers have barely shifted in five years, and some of them have gone back. We can't explain this by way of nature of the industry, because we can compare it to mining, another very, very similar male dominated industry.
Mining has similar challenges to construction, but it has half the pay gap of construction and it has half the pay gap of construction because it's been working on it. It's been working to attract women to its industry. It has strategies in place to address gender equality. This suggests that there are other issues going on, and our data pinpoints some of those problems in the industry. But there was a fabulous report that Louise and Natalie Galea authored called Demolishing Gender Structures. It's a report that highlights why these problems exist, and we need to know why.
They exist because there are a range of cultural and structural issues that really are standing in the way of progress. The report is fabulous in that it takes a holistic approach to looking at the issues across the areas of leadership, recruitment, retention, and progression. It identifies barriers that exists for the progression of women, and the challenges that men face. They include things like rigid work practises, a toxic culture for men. If it's toxic for men, can you imagine what it's like for women. Hostile attitudes towards flexibility, parental leave, and employees issues with work life balance.
And there's a subtle culture of denial and resistance to diversity and equality initiatives. It shows that women's access to opportunities in this industry is severely limited by things like the importance of informal networks, focuses on pipeline and cultural fit. The importance of male sponsorship and the importance of strategic alliances with senior leaders and of course, all these favour men, not women. It also highlights how construction work sites exclude women. There's evidence of tolerance and acceptance of sexism, sexist language, sexual harassment, and just plain old sex discrimination. Their report shows where the power and the privilege lie in this industry, and where we need to see a change.
I guess the strength from my perspective of the report that Louise and Nat did is that it identifies how change can happen. It's got a positive spin on it as well. They provide practical suggestions for changing the culture of the construction industry in ways that will benefit all. Both women and men in construction won't change, they want to achieve a better work-life balance and changes to the industry is very rigid work practises. Change doesn't happen by itself. It happens when people demand it, and it happens when we challenge the status quo. When we challenge that power, and privilege.
Like all of you here today, I am absolutely delighted and looking forward to hearing Louise's outline of who you approach to achieving gender justice at work. Louise, of course, is the Director of the Australian Human Rights Institute. She's lauded throughout the world for the work that she's done, and she is an academic of naught, having worked at places like the University of Edinburgh, the University of Manchester, and the European University, amongst many others. Without further ado, Professor Louise Chappell.
Learn@Lunch presentation from Professor Louise Chappell
Thanks so much Libby for those very generous comments and for raising the reports which I will briefly touch on today. Can I also acknowledge that we're here today on Gadigal land and I also want to reinforce the commitment by myself, and the Australian Human Rights Institute, to the honour restatement for the heart and support for the goals of voice, treaty and truth. I'd like to thank the business faculty for inviting me to give this talk today to Libby, obviously, to Cate Bond for chairing today's session. My one wonderful team at the Australian Human Rights Institute, who has supported me in developing my talk today. Welcome to my two sisters who came along, which is very nice.
Let me progress. For the last two decades, organisations across politics, governments, industry, law, the media and not for profits, have put significant effort into attempting to improve gender diversity and to address gender discrimination in paying conditions. With this has come a wave of measures to try and fix the problem. However, women's equality in employment remains relatively slow and in some cases like the construction industry intractable. What makes this so difficult?
In my talk today want to outline what I see is the nature of the problem and why it matters. And then to discuss some current approaches that are being used to tackle the problem and detail why I think these are not working, and then make some suggestions for changing the status quo. Essentially, what I want to do is advocate for a shift in focus from gender diversity to gender justice. This is not a semantic difference. Gender justice is inherently political, calling for the identification of and redistribution of an essential resource that is power. I will discuss some ways that power is manifest, and make some suggestions of how we might challenge it.
At the crux of my argument is a claim that in our contemporary world, gender diversity has been construed very narrowly. Indeed, it's been about addressing individual women's disadvantage in the public realm. But often without a deep and detailed analysis of gender power dynamics, which situate men and women differently in regard to paid and unpaid work. And in relation to the positions in the public and private spheres. As a result, structural power remains entrenched and that produces benefits, including male privilege. In recognising the inherent power dimension of the problem, I want to be clear about two things upfront. First, I'm not laying the blame here at the door of individual men. Just as I'm a privileged white person, despite the fact that I abhor rate racism, so to are men privileged by their sex, despite the fact that many of them also abhor gender discrimination.
Second, I want to make the point that I think my analysis here today is equally relevant to other issues of disadvantage, in relation to race, ability, ethnicity, heteronormativity, and so on. I suggest that we all need to think much more deeply about how these different forms of disadvantage intersect with each other, to be able to shift the dial on gender or any other of these areas of disadvantage.
What's the nature of the problem? Gender inequality in the workplace and social organisations more broadly, remains a stubborn and entrenched problem. This is not a problem able to be fixed by individual women and men, because it's a structural one, reaching across the public and private divide and across industry sectors and it's certainly as these slides tells us, it is a problem that affects every country in the world basically. The three women that are left it standing in that photo are all about to leave.
Angela Merkel has already set her date for leaving, we will lose Theresa May next week. And Christine Lagarde well she is moving on to the European Bank, but she will not be there talking at the most powerful forum at the G20 from now on. And let's see who replaces all of those. But certainly we're not going to have a UK Prime Minister that is female, we know that for sure. What I'm saying here is not a new argument at all, I think it's been the heart of feminist struggles for centuries, if not millennia. And those of you who have read the wonderful manifesto by Mary Beard, Women in Power will understand how it relates back to Greek and Roman times. The separation between the public and private spheres, and the association and velarization of the masculine with the public realm and the association, devaluing and dismissal of the feminine in the private is at the core of what I'm talking about.
But let's get a snapshot of what's happening in relation to this in Australia And I'm drawing a lot on the wonderful work that Libby and her team are doing. She has already mentioned, we have a gender pay gap in favour of men. As of last year, it was around $25,000 a year, which is very substantial. This is a bit of a complicated slide, but it tells us that work happens in sex segregated ways in industries that mirror what happens in the private realm.
The red dots you see there relate to the female share of industry and the blue columns relate to the highest rates of pay. You can see women tend to be in those industries with higher rates of pay in lower numbers, and women tend to be in much higher numbers in those industries with lower rates of pay. These are figures drawn from the ABS, but also I know Libby's team does work that's very similar to this. But this is a very good snapshot to tell you where women are in the workforce in terms of industry sectors, and the sort of clustering down this bottom in. All of those areas that mirror what happens in the private sphere, the caring, the cooking, those sorts of areas, but they are still undervalued in terms of the wages that they attract.
Despite our best efforts, we have a situation where women have not gained equality in politics, in the boardroom, in management positions, and so on. This is from the Conrad Liveris, we see that there are more men named Andrew, who are ASX 200 CEOs than women, who are 5.5%. Andrew, is at seven, Michael is 5.5, and Mark is five, and then all of the men make up the rest of the 77%. That really tells us something very troubling. Also, I would probably guess the ethnic background of those men who were there given those particular names.
We have a very, very serious problem in superannuation and Libby's team, again, pays a lot of attention to this, and it worries me very much. We can see here at ages 55 to 59, there is a 47.8% get in superannuation. That's incredible, and remember, women live longer than men. But women having much less access to economic resources and this is leading to homelessness, bad health outcomes, and general disadvantage. It's a crisis, I think it's something that we absolutely need to do more about. We also know that we have issues around sexual harassment and sexual assault in workplaces, and a serious problem of domestic violence in the private sphere.
Kate Jenkins and her team is Australian Human Rights Commission are doing great work at the moment on really trying to quantify the nature of this problem. But their most recent report shows that 23% of women and 68% of men have experienced sexual harassment at work. And 39% of women and 26% of men have experienced sexual harassment at work in the last five years. They're very concerning numbers and as we know, these things it's hard to capture and probably underestimate the nature of the problem.
Bear with me on this slide, it is incredible and I understand Annabel Crabb is writing a whole quarterly essay on this slide. This tells us what's happening in the private sphere. We see here, down the bottom, we have the ages of the youngest child from one to 12 years old, the father and the mother. The child comes along the father's employment, stays pretty stable. The women employment falls off the cliff, makes its way back up by the time the child is 12 but never comes back to where it was. In terms of parenting, and childcare, men are taking up some of the roles in the first year, and it drops off pretty steadily. But look what women are doing in terms of childcare and their childcare responsibilities may match higher than men for those 12 years. This is the scary one for me; housework. Men's housework doesn't change. Women's housework goes up and stays up for all that time and this is not ... Anyway, this is based on the statistics and I've got to say that it doesn't fully represent what happens in my household. But we can have that discussion later.
Okay, sorry, I don't want to go there yet. We've got a problem, and the problem, I think should be discussed not in terms of women's disadvantage here, but what it tells us about men and to flip the conversation. It tells us that men enjoy excessively generous share of the economic pie. It tells us that men dominate all industries, if not in numbers, and definitely in terms of positions of power and pay. I'm pretty sure there's not one profession where women dominate, where men are paid more than women, is that right? Yes, men carry a lot of domestic and carrying load compared to women. While there's no doubt that men do suffer sexual harassment. They're statistically less likely than women to be victims of this type of abuse, and statistically more likely than women to be the perpetrators of it.
The simple inversion of this narrative from one about women's disadvantage to one about men's advantage makes us rethink and possibly makes us feel very uncomfortable. Why? Because we're immediately confronted with issues of power, advantage and privilege. To my mind, this is the crucial issue, our responses to women's disadvantage we've forgotten about, ignored or failed to engage with the power dynamics that are foundational to contemporary gender relations.
The concern is that we're focusing too much on the individual and not on the systemic and structural problems. This also goes to attempt to try and fix this problem. Focused efforts and a huge commitment of resources driven largely by very committed women working in human resources departments have been directed to providing individual women with tools to enter the workplace and climb the leadership ladder. We've had training coaching, mentorship programmes, flexible work arrangements, maternity and parental leave. All of these have been put in place, and they're very laudable efforts, but they're slow and failing to shift the dial in terms of achieving gender diversity, let alone gender equality.
I want to unpack some of the problems with two of the dominant approaches. The first one goes to the sort of do it yourself approach of Sheryl Sandberg's Lean In which is the most prominent, but is also reflected, I think, in much of the contemporary women's leadership training. Recognising that women are disempowered, including through structural processes, the central thrust of Sandberg's argument is on calling for women to "Act more ambitiously, speak more confidently, demand a seat at the table and take more risks." While Sandberg herself has moved back from some of her earlier clients here, sadly, largely I think, due to becoming a single parent after her husband died, these sentiments have caught on in the HR industry and are reinforced and reflected in many similar training programmes.
For instance, a forthcoming Sydney Women's leadership forum linked to the male Champions of Change programme emphasises classic individualistic responses. This comes directly from their website, not the image, but these are the things you learn if you pay many thousands of dollars to go along. Get out from behind your invisibility cloak and project more authority, inject your input and feedback at meetings with more gravity and importance. Expand your circle of influence, be the revered example of grace under pressure, and evoke the level of respect and trust that gets you noticed, listened to and heard. I would love to see the equivalent of a male leadership programme that looks something like that to tell them how to behave in such a way.
There are many problems with this, including its exclusionary message. Linda Burnham, a black American feminist writer has labelled Sandberg's and this type of approach as 1% feminism. She argues, however, endowed we are with confidence, courage and ambition, short of having the cold, hard cash to solve some of these problems by throwing money and some other women's labour at them, it's awfully hard to find the wherewithal to lean in.
Second, calls for women to lean in, projects the focus both of the problem and the solution onto women's shoulders. Recently, a group of social psychologists from Duke University undertook experiments with groups of men and women using Sandberg's message on what women should do to achieve career success. The study showed, "The more we talked about women leaning in, the more likely it was for those people to hold women responsible for the inequalities and for fixing it." They found that the message that women could fix the problem themselves also diminished people's focus on systemic obstacles that require broader social address.
Commentating on this research one blog commentator put it in very searing tones, "Advocating a do it yourself approach to on the job equality may actually be a kind of gas lighting, just one more way for institutions to deflect blame and make women question themselves and doubt their sanity. It's the society that we operate in that needs fixing, not how we ask for money, the tone of our voices or our outfits." Another individually focused strategy concerns the fashion and fetish I'd argue with unconscious bias, and more specifically, unconscious bias training, I'll call it UBT. According to one report, the US currently spends $8 billion a year on this training, but for what outcome? Multiple studies now looking at gender and race UBT have demonstrated that while unconscious bias training can indeed raise an individual's awareness that they have a problem. There is little evidence that it changes anyone's behaviour.
One systematic evaluation of the use of UBT for the Advancement of Women and ethnic minorities into management, than UBT to be one of the least effective methods for changing behaviour. And more worryingly, Many studies have shown that such interventions are actually serving to solidify existing attitudes and to create backlash. UK sociologist Michael Noon argues the problem with UBVT is that he quotes, "It gets with a blame free an overly optimistic narrative that assumes changes in individual behaviour will eliminate discriminative treatment."
The persistence of disadvantage suggests that a turn towards the individual is in the wrong direction says Noon. Because it fails to address a fair distribution in the outcomes of social rewards. The problem of all these individually focused responses, according to one Harvard professor, is that they operate as a get out of jail free card for organisations. It allows them to look like they're doing something but without tackling the underlying causes, particularly the power relations that maintain these structures.
I now want to move on and draw out the fundamental conceptual shift I think that's necessary to advance gender equality. In most contemporary writing on this topic, the general consensus on why more women should be appointed to political or legal roles to lead companies, to write front pages of news papers, to be appointed as football coaches or whatever the job may be, is because, "Women bring something different to the position." Academic articles, media stories, blog posts, and social media commentaries. All, use the analysis that women should be appointed because they're more intuitive, they're better communicators, more consultative, less corruptible and therefore, when we bring more of us into the fold, then we change the way our organisations operate, housekeeping in the public realm.
Why there is some evidence that increase in the number of women will change behaviour of organisations. For instance, there's some evidence that female politicians do bring a greater sensitivity to social policies. There's some argument that more women in the finance industry may well have stopped the DFC from happening. The results around these sorts of studies are often usually relatively weak, and don't carry across contexts. It may be that women bring different skills, approaches and attributes into their public roles, because we share biological and reproductive features, patterns of education, carrying responsibilities, health concerns, and so on, which probably does have bearing and shape our participation and leadership styles. But I think the extent of the difference is often overstated, and naturalised.
I can see the strategic importance of making the business case for gender diversity using these claims of difference. At the same time, I think relying on these claims is very limiting and potentially very dangerous. This is because these claims are highly gendered, anchored in stereotypes about women's natural caring roles, and the corollary men's hard-edged aggressive, rational approach to leadership. In other words, they serve to box both men and women into their already limited gender boundaries, where women don't, these caring qualities, they are unwomanly, hard, aggressive, ball busters. Equally, seemingly intuitive caring men are perceived as weak, emotional, or as one famous Australian politician said of another lacking the ticker to do the job.
It's at this point also that we get mixed up in the tricky question of merit. Relying on arguments about inclusion based on women's natural or socially constructed differences, helps reinforce ideas that men and women are suitable for particular jobs and not others. We don't need to make an argument that women will do things differently in order to pursue gender diversity and equality. Instead, I suggest we should return to the roots of the Women's Equality Movement, and focus on women's inclusion on the basis of justice and rights. Women make up 50% of the population, therefore, it's just that women make up 50% of all the positions across the public sphere.
When we look at the UN Convention on the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women, the Global Women's Human Rights document, nowhere does it suggest women should be included because they'll do things differently, or add a particular value. Rather, it states we should be included because it's our human rights to participate in decisions that affect us and the world we inhabit.
In developing this gender justice argument, I'm invoking the excellent and now classic work of political philosopher, And Phillips, who argued for women's inclusion on the basis of justice, not difference. She noted that where unequal sex representation exists, it's likely that either deliberate discrimination or structural power relations follow. For Philips the presence of women in institutions matters, even if it proves to have no discernible consequences for the policies that may be adopted. In her view, even if women make no substantive difference at all, or in the case of some women, and we can think of many examples Margaret Thatcher, Pauline Hanson perhaps, where they may not be benefiting the broader cause, it's still important that they participate. Because to be excluded leaves women in the position of political and social miners.
To Phillips, part of the purpose of increasing gender equality is simply to achieve the necessary inclusion, to reverse the previous histories of exclusion, and the ways these constituted certain kinds of people as less suited to govern than others. British sociologist Nirmal Puwar argues increasing the presence of people of different sexes, genders and races is a radical act in and of itself. Because these people literally become space invaders, the mere presence is disruptive, showing that the organisation is no longer a solely white male preserve.
A US scholar Sally Kenny, reflects on this in a very similar way in relation to her work on women in the judiciary. She says women exercising judgement breaks a powerful taboo, their presence disrupts the normal assumption that heterosexual white men are the only citizens capable of rendering objective judgement , or that only privileged men are naturally suited to assume authority.
This is indeed my position. We need to appoint women equally across all sectors, because it's the just thing to do. Given that men and women have different life experiences, it may be the case that women will bring different/private concerns to their public lives in a different way to men. And this is indeed a good thing, but we also shouldn't assume and put pressure on women to always do this and also not to assume that men won't work to advance women's rights. Let's not forget, there are many good feminist men out there who are more willing to support sound gender policies, than conservative women who want to limit women's lives to traditional roles in the public sphere.
Before I get to discuss some practical steps, I want to just turn to what I see as the heart of the issue, the matter of power. One of the reasons I surmise that we've turned our attention away from gender justice towards gender diversity is that justice is harder to do, and to achieve, because it runs head on into issues of power, privilege and control. It's not about seeking or being invited into the public domain because we will add something new, soft, caring, nurturing, whatever it might be. But it's because it's our right, to be there pure and simple. But to make this claim is obviously unsettling to those who hold and maintain power because by necessity, it means they need to share their greatest resource, which ultimately means giving up something.
So often, this facts gets allied in discussions about gender diversity, women are invited into the conversation such as through the male Champions of Change Programme. It's not a conversation about resetting the power imbalance, but making room to let women in often on men's terms. We need to discuss power, and we need to recognise that this will be discomforting. As one gender equality advocate recently said, "If you're not uncomfortable while talking about diversity and inclusion, I assure you, you're not doing it right." Or to quote the advice of Tim Soutphommasane the former race Commissioner when he was talking at our recent Business and Human Rights Conference. "To anyone working at the forefront of race and gender equality, if you want to be loved, get a dog." Spot on. To make any real headway, women should be open and honest between themselves and with their male counterparts about the struggle that needs to occur to dismantle existing gender, social, political and economic power structures.
This takes us to the realm of masculine privilege, and something that Libby referred to the work that I've been doing here with Natalie Galea, Abby Powell and Martin Loosemore and others in the construction industry. In Natalie's groundbreaking PhD research on the lack of gender diversity across male dominated professions, she paid attention to the question of privileged. And male advantage in particular. And argues that male advantage is perpetuated by two interrelated elements, earned advantage and privilege. Earned advantages is an advantage of attained through acquiring a skill. So Training hard to participate in a marathon, learning a musical instrument, being educated and so on.
Privilege is in contrast to earned advantage in that it's not a reflection of one's individual capability or capacity but it's gifted and unearned power. The product of membership of a social category be that gender, sexuality, class, physical ability or race. The matter of masculine privilege could encompass and it's entitled on its own and one better done by Natalie than myself. But I would like to make a couple of points about it and raise two caveats. First, that not all men share equally in this gender privilege. Race, sexuality and class intersect with it and we found that very much on the ground in the construction industry.
Second, this privilege isn't always a positive thing. We found in our research in construction and my work has politics is also borne this out. The stresses, expectations, responsibilities that come with this privilege, have direct and debilitating effects on men. They struggle to maintain a work life balance, and suffer hugely from mental, physical, and emotional health issues. Nevertheless, the power of privilege is real and important and can according to Natalie, express itself in three ways; through a culture of denial and indifference, through perceptions that rules are neutral, legitimate and applied objectively, and finally through backlash, and resistance. In our view, confronting each of these elements is essential to delivering any systematic change in gender relations.
Today, I want to briefly hone in on two these elements culture of denial, and the operation of backlash. First of denial, it's an important feature of privilege, that it is invisible to those who enjoy it. It means in this case, men tend not to see their gender privilege, whites tend not to see their race privilege and so on. Those who are privileged are considered the norm, that they don't often see it. As a consequence, those who are privileged may not recognise that others lack access to the benefits they received.
The invisibility of privilege produces a culture of denial, even when confronted by unfair practises. There are many examples of this denial that have come up in my own research and we saw it last year for instance, in relation to the climb of many in the Liberal Party that they don't have a problem with women. But I found a recently a fantastic example of this which comes out of one of Elizabeth Broderick's reports into gender bias in New South Wales Police Force around promotion. Women are greatly underrepresented compared to men. They did a survey as part of their report and asked a number of statements. First one, men and women had the same opportunities to succeed in the current promotion systems men said yes, 79% of the time, women said yes 47%.
It's difficult for female police officers to achieve the rank of Commissioner, 13% of men agree with that statement 54% of women did. Family commitments are a barrier to promotion. 48% of men thought they were a problem, 76% of women. Reallocation were a barrier, 45% of men 65% of women. Gender is a barrier 8% of men, 38% of women. It's almost like the men and women are working in different organisations. Men are denying the struggles confronting women at work.
Another effect of privilege is that when rights of the privileged are denied or challenged, it's often met with backlash. Backlash is characterised by attitudes of hostility and fear, particularly on the part of the privileged group. This is something we heard very powerfully last night by the talk by Jelani Cobb about racism in the US under the Trump regime, we could call it. Where white people have inverted the problem and feel like they are the most marginalised and disadvantaged in American society.
Backlash can take a range of forms, violent attacks, complicit actions of defiance and resistance. It's often felt very powerfully and the emotional loss that can come with backlash and challenging privilege is often felt more powerfully than any material loss in itself. In our construction industry work, we saw the operation of backlash at many levels, but particularly against women who had taken parental leave, and organised part time work arrangements. When they came back to work, they were punished, they were pilloried, they were marginalised because they were perceived to have had special treatment. Many of them then went on to leave the industry.
So what is to be done? It's time to reassess the current gender diversity treadmill and redirect the resources towards a gender justice approach. Here are my top seven suggestions. Number one, understand we're engaged in a gender power struggle, acknowledge that we need to change deeply entrenched rules and structures, not individuals. Also acknowledge that the structure can be a productive one but it'll be tough as it necessitates a powerful group, giving up some of their power for the benefit of others.
Second, pay attention to numbers, count the men and women. This is where I think which this work is absolutely vital. Having those statistics is incredibly powerful and important. Pay attention to denial and backlash, and call it out. Each time you read the next, women will transform the boardroom type of article or blog. Check and see where the men are also being pigeonholed and asked to change their behaviour. If not, don't pass it on, do engage with the author or the audience to ask what changes that men could make to also support change. Stop emphasising women's lower rates of participation, presentation pay, and let's speak about men's over representation rather than speaking about the fact that women's representation in Australian Parliament is at 30%. Let's talk about the fact that men are represented at 70%.
Work collectively to achieve structural reforms that apply to men as well as women. Let's not use the language of affirmative action, but differentiated action, which will mean shifting opportunities for men too possibly through curbing their representation through quotas, which cap their participation. Use quotas to limit men's position in boardrooms, in cabinet, in Parliament. Take the leaf from some law firms who are now introducing 40, 40, 20 partnership arrangements, which is in itself a good start. Focus on structural changes to work such as flexible and parental leave, but make it compulsory for men, and give them a better chance to enjoy the challenges and joys of care work and the sheer drudgery and shortly pleasures of housework.
Let's take up the wonderful New Zealand feminist economist Marilyn Waring's suggestion that we count domestic labour in the national GDP. This huge contribution of women's work isn't invisible any longer and that it may well be an incentive for men to play a bigger role in the private realm.
Number six, this is perhaps a self interested plea, but it's a genuine one. Stop wasting precious money and resources on strategies that don't work and commit resources to good research to better understand what the problem is, and what we can do to change it. At the Australian Human Rights Institute, we're working across a range of sectors using a range of methods including ethnography and randomised control trials to try and better determine what works and then to have it implemented in practise. It also requires from organisations an investment in maintaining what works and might be provided with the information about it. But it will then require an investment of resources to make sure that it's implemented. Getting a gold star and a famous one might be a great thing, but unless we're actually changing what's happening in universities, it's not going to be very valuable. We need to lock in the winds and to avoid the drift over time.
That is the last word from me, but I do want to leave you with a last word from somebody else. Sorry, I'm going there anti ... Yes. Given I have my music as a theme, I thought I'd hand over to Dolly for the last word.
*9 To 5 by Dolly Parton plays*
There she is, I forgot until I went back through it, just how awesome that song really is and how it captures everything that I was talking about, including equal pay, issues around sexual harassment in the workplace, and so on. We even have someone today wearing his Dolly badge, which is very, very awesome. Thank you, everyone, for listening to me, I have vent my frustration, and I'm very keen to take your questions now, thank you.
Q&A session with audience
Catherine Bond: Thank you, we now have a bit of time for questions. There are a few roving microphones around as well, if you just want to pop your hand up. First question to the gentleman up at the back there.
Speaker 4: Hi, I recently had a chance to chat with female parliamentarian, and I spoke about their career and the leadership role that they'd been able to achieve. I spoke about how very lucky that they've achieved a level financial independence to be able to employ people to assist at home. You've spoken about the challenges with these, can you enlighten us with researcher as to the people who are breaking down barriers, but enabled by more paid work of other women?
Louise Chappell: Look, I think that, that's a hugely important point and one of the really big critiques around this sort of Sandberg approach that it's all well and good, and especially concentrating on elite level women, when they're doing it on the backs very often of the labour of poorly paid women. There is research around that and I know, my colleagues at the Social Policy Research Centre, and indeed at the Centre for Social Impact have been doing important work around women's low paid work, particularly migrant women low pace work. It's a really huge problem.
This is also a power question, and what we've got to do, number one is better pay those who do caring work. It's absolutely essential. It's so undervalued in our societies, it blows my mind, you'd leave a little child in the care of someone, they get paid a tiny percentage of what someone in a management role would do but they've got someone's lives in their hand, we have to shift that. We also have to make sure that those whose career we are building on that they've also got opportunities as well. It's a big call, it's a big ask and we've got to be very conscious of what we're doing. I would say, when we do that, that we engage with those workers who we support in terms of them getting the best pay advocating on their behalf as well.
Unionised workplaces tend to be much better high places for women. Women have flocked to unions, nurses and care workers, they're the predominant union members these days, because they're pushing to get those paying conditions that they need. It's a very important point, very valid one and it's something that we have to take very seriously. I've got to say there's very, very good research being done on that at UNSW.
Speaker 5: Thanks Louise, Jen Dallas, from Women in Banking and Finance. Can we talk a bit more about backlash? Could you explain a little bit more about what you're saying and what I recently came across an example is actually off the back of a panel that Libby participated in about a week ago. I became aware after a post I put on LinkedIn, of some political organisation by groups of men around organising backlash in online forums. It was something quite new to me and I just wondered whether you had any exposure to that in recent?
Louise Chappell: I have got colleagues doing incredible work about backlash to women's politicians, particularly through social media, it's at extreme levels, and quantitative research, where they're using analysis of Twitter data to demonstrate the difference sorts of Twitter responses to male and female politicians so that they can have a direct comparison there. It's the volume, is the problem when get much, much more negative commentary. Women politicians I'm talking about, they get much, much, much more violent commentary and they also find that they then have to retreat from the social media space, more than more often than men do. It's a silencing of women and their ability to take power in the public realm.
It's very disturbing. In our work on construction industry, we weren't seeing that sort of level. It was very subtle, a lot of it and it came in the form of sarcasm, constant digs. There was a number of examples where we found where women had taken their parental leave, and come back and negotiated part time work, and couldn't maintain it because they were being harassed every day on site for not carrying their weight not working there Saturdays. Therefore they couldn't continue on. So their choice is to leave. One of the really interesting things we found in the construction industry where young women going in, they were all training in double degrees, they do engineering and finance or something, just in case, they can't crack it in engineering, and they flew somewhere else and they were in huge numbers.
It's one of the industries with lowest rates of retention for women of any and young women are smart, they work out, they'll have a backstop there. But as they keep fleeing, it just keeps perpetuating the problem. It's a real challenge. But I got to say too, upside of this, and like Libby, I don't want to be all gloom and doom. That the industry is listening to the findings from our report and in fact, Natalie, who can't be here today. But last year she gave 10 International Women's Day talks to my ladies in industry and over the last three years since the report came out has probably spoken about 100 times to industry about it, and what they can do.
Part of the benefit of our research is that we did it as an ethnography, so we went on the ground, and we shadowed project managers, young professionals, men and women. The finding that came back to us it was so powerful, is this world is toxic for men, they are under stress. They're having anxiety attacks, suicide rates are incredibly high, alcohol and drug abuse are incredibly high. This system doesn't work for anyone. They're going home at 11 o'clock at night, they're being asked to reopen their laptops, they're not seeing their kids, divorce is really, really high. You spend a day with someone at the end of the day, they'll sit down and tell you I don't get to see my kids' soccer games. Because the industry at least in New South Wiles is about to try something innovative, which is called the five day workweek.
We're going to do a study on it, and see if it makes a difference to people's lives that they don't have to work on a Saturday. It's astounding how that works. But the problem is, and a lot of men talked about this about the way they performed masculinity on site, because that's the expectation and they know that backlash happens to them as well. If they don't play the right game, they're going to experience ... They become the butt of the joke. There was a lawyer that used to come in and he used to work his hours, and everyone would stand up in the office and go, "Oh, what time you call this? I was there that morning. 7:30am." It seemed to me to be relatively early to be getting to work, and he did not need to be there any earlier because anyone he had to deal with wasn't going to be at their desks until 8: 30 in the morning.
It gets perpetuated through these sorts of things, and the backlash can happen, really obviously, like the politics examples, or just constant micro subtleties. You only get to see that when you do that sort of work where you're on the ground. We're about to start a new project with some orphans which I'm very excited about.
Catherine Bond: How would you know? We probably have time for one more question, just in the second row here. Thank you.
Speaker 6: Thank you. Thanks for the information, it's been a terrific session. Just to highlight what you mentioned in regards to your thesis on the noise. I was working for government departments and we went through the tender process as myself and many others had for five, 10, 15 years and it was for all Allied Health. And through that process, we found out all the Allied Health people had an increase, CPI talking increase, but in the last four years ago, we actually had a decrease in that round of over 11%, just for the nurses, and that we sort of objected and nevertheless we signed the contract and it's true, we signed the contract however, if we didn't sign the contract, we had no work. And then we tried to fight it and take it further colleagues were sort of basically threatened, intimidated description. Don't get animated, don't do this, it has epic consequences.
Louise Chappell: Yeah, it's a troubling, very troubling story and I think we are living in a very challenging times around these particular sorts of issues. I don't want to suggest that any of this is easy but I do want to suggest, I think we need to speak truth to power in a more forceful way, and to use those collective tools that we have at our disposal to do what we can.
Catherine Bond: Thank you so much. Thank you for the questions. Thank you again for your remarkable lecture today and if you'll join me in thanking Louise Professor Chappell one more time.
Louise Chappell: Thank you.
Catherine Bond: The next Learn at lunch sorry, will be held on Wednesday the 14th of August with Scientia Professor Veena Sahajwalla from the Faculty of Science. Be sure to note that date in your calendars, visit the alumni website for more information and you've got your little Learn at Lunch handouts here as well. Thank you again for coming today and enjoy your week.
Louise Chappell: Thank you. Thanks Cate. Thank you